In Yueyang visit an elementary school renovated and sponsored by Viking. Welcome Reception to meet traveling companions.
Today we docked at Yuyuang to visit one of the three elementary schools that are supported by Viking. It is considered rural; however, it is a city of 2,000,000 people. The classroom we visited was a third grade class of 78 students. The size of the room would be considered small by US standards but 78 small desks were crowded into the class. The room contains no bulletin boards, only a blackboard in the front and back of the room. I saw no books; it appeared the lesson was written on the blackboard. The floor was concrete and the furnishings were basic and quite old. The lack of color or stimulation in the room was striking. The physical condition of the school aside, the Chinese place intense emphasis on education. The guide continues to stress the extreme competition that is felt by young people to excel. About 95% of the children attend free public education through 12th grade. The remaining 5% are children of the very wealthy and attend private school. At the completion of the 12th year, students take a 3 day exam which will determine whether and what higher education will be possible for them. At the time they enroll in college, they stipulate an area of study. When completed they will only be permitted to seek careers in that area. They cannot choose to switch areas later in life.
Women are to retire between 50 and 55; men are to retire between 55 and 60. Our guide said it is the norm for three generations to live together - usually in a two bedroom condo. She and her contemporaries give 80% of their income to support their extended family. Take note Jeff, Sarah, Caron, and Diane. I can see this might be a Chinese custom that has real merit!
It is mid afternoon and this is the first time since arriving that the smog has dissipated. We can actually see clearly on the banks of the river. I don't know if it is because we are far enough away from an industrial area or what. I have never seen such heavy river traffic, nor have I previously seen water buffalo in their natural environment.
The population issues and their consequences are just overwhelming. We are still trying to process what we are encountering. Clearly most are in favor of the one child policy and express the hope that within several years, India will surpass China as the world's most populous country. They quite obviously still have animosity toward the Japanese and do not shy away from expressing it.
Tonight we will attend a Chinese dinner to welcome everyone aboard. Hopefully, I can push myself away from the table and avoid the "stuffed" feeling I have experienced since arriving. Oh, me of so little self-control!
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